Connect. Connect. Connect. It’s a mantra we all feel like we should be following to successfully conduct business on LinkedIn. Yet it can be very uncomfortable for people to reach out to others on the platform–especially people we don’t know.

There is a way around connecting, however, that’s both softer and effective. It involves a little-known feature of LinkedIn that actually makes it more Twitter-like in feel and use. Moreover, you can use it to start pinging on the radar of those 2nd- and 3rd-degree people with whom you want to start a sales conversation, without the pressure of having to connect or having them turn down your connection request.

The Concept Behind The Follow

I mentioned Twitter in the above paragraph because “following” people on LinkedIn is the same as following on Twitter:

  1. You begin following them on LinkedIn (instructions are in the next section).
  2. LinkedIn notifies the people you have just started following that you’re now following them. With this action, you’ve made the initial “ping” on that person’s radar.
  3. Now that you’re following them, you can see their content shares, their likes, and comments, and their LinkedIn articles in your newsfeed; again, just like Twitter. And like Twitter, it’s now much easier to interact with their content.

The most important aspect of The Follow, though, is that the people being followed don’t have to “accept” your follow (again, just like Twitter). Like the graphic at the top of this story says it’s a one-way, one-direction action.

Learning The Follow is a bit like the education behind Texas Hold ‘Em Poker: Takes a minute to learn, and a lifetime to master. Well, not really a “lifetime,” but there is an ongoing strategy behind it that you can use to build your influence and even your sales pipeline. I’ll teach you the strategy in just a minute, but first…

How to Follow

It used to be a little difficult to follow people. You have to know that the action of “following” actually exists, which LinkedIn doesn’t promote nearly as much as it should. To follow, go to the person’s LinkedIn profile and click on the More… button (highlighted below). Then in the drop-down menu, click + Follow (also highlighted). Voila! You’re now following them.

Pretty sweet, if you know it exists.

A Strategy to Maximize The Follow

Now that you know the mechanics behind The Follow, it’s time to use it. Remember that the goal here is to ping on their radar, and to do that you’ll need to be proactive with their content.

Week One: After your initial follow/ping, start out by liking their content that’s now showing up in your LinkedIn newsfeed. Do this twice, maybe three times.

Week Two (and even Three): Step it up a bit by commenting on and even sharing their content. Just don’t comment/share by saying “Great article!” When you comment or share, you can add your expertise by bringing out a point in the article, agreeing with it, or even asking a question. Do this two to three times in Week Two (and Week Three, if you take it that far out). And whatever you do, don’t pitch your own product or service in your comment. That’s just like spamming.

Any time after that: Reach out and request a connection. Here’s a template you can alter and use for yourself:

[NAME]: I’ve been following you and your content for a couple of weeks now. I especially liked your share/article on [TOPIC], and thought we could benefit one another by connecting here on LinkedIn. Thanks.

Because of your not-too-frequent radar pings, they’ll very likely remember you and will want to accept your connection request. Complimenting one of their posts or articles will help your cause, too.

You don’t want to overuse this strategy, as the people you’re following are pinged in their Notifications tab every time you take an action on their content. Pinging too much (or too much, too soon) could even get you blocked by them.

Ping On their Radar

I know the phrase “ping on their radar” is one of those overused business expressions, like “put a pin in it,” “the new normal,” or “take this off-line.” In this case, though, it applies well. From your initial follow to every time you like, comment and/or share one of their items, your presence in their Notifications feed represents a ping. As they get to know you more, they’ll feel comfortable getting to know you and hopefully will want to connect with you. From there… who knows?

This is a great under-the-radar strategy (I know, I did it again) that you can use to build your presence on LinkedIn, but in a more-gentle way. I’ve used it with great success, and the people I’ve taught this strategy do well with it, too. Now, put it to work for you.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn. This version of the article has been altered to reflect changes to LinkedIn since its initial publication.